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Economic Matters High On Governors' Agenda

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Cincinnati--Saying "America has dug itself into a hole" in the international marketplace, Gov. Gerald L. Baliles of Virginia began his term as chairman of the National Governors' Association by exhorting his fellow governors here to work toward improving the teaching of foreign languages and geography.

"How are we to sell our products in a global economy when we neglect to learn the languages of the customer?" he asked in a speech at last month's 80th annual meeting of the nga in which he outlined his agenda for the coming year.

"How are we to open overseas markets when other cultures are only dimly understood?" he continued. "How are our firms to provide international leadership when our schools are producing insular students?"

Governor Baliles has established seven task forces to examine issues raised in his address, including one on international education and another on children's issues.

The task force on international education, to be led by Gov. Thomas Kean of New Jersey, will examine such topics as the need for more training in foreign languages and cultures and geography.

The task force on children, to be chaired by Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, will focus on issues including child care, infant mortality, early-childhood education, and access to affordable health services.

Other task forces, Mr. Baliles said, will examine the "beyond our borders" issues of foreign markets and research and development, and the "within our borders" concerns of infrastructure, domestic markets, and the federal budget deficit.

The governors and their task forces "must understand the rules have changed, reconsider our priorities, and design a practical and pragmatic course of action," he said.

The task forces are expected to provide an interim report on their work at the nga's winter meeting in Washington, and a final report at next summer's annual meeting.

Progress Report on Reform

Although the meeting focused mainly on the nga's theme during the past year--the proper balance of power between the federal and state governments--education-related issues were highlighted in several sessions and in new studies.

For example, the governors released the second of five planned reports detailing progress on the ambitious education-reform agenda set forth in their 1986 report, Time for Results.

In addition to outlining education initiatives undertaken in the 50 states during the past two years, the new study, Results in Education: 1988 includes an analysis of how states measure the outcomes of their reforms and ensure they are meeting their goals.

The survey, conducted by the Council of Chief State School Officers, asserts that "there has been a virtual explosion in state testing efforts." It found that 27 states have adopted 37 new testing programs since 1985.

"More testing alone will not lead to better results," the report cautions. States must "ensure that goals and outcome standards are not limited to those that currently can be measured; rather, states must invest in developing ways to measure the outcomes that really matter."

Holding Schools Accountable

Despite its warning that current measures of educational outcomes are imperfect, the report also advocates that states develop methods to hold local schools accountable for results. The accountability theme was also a primary topic of discussion at the National Conference of State Legislatures' annual meeting this summer. (See Education Week, Aug. 3, 1988.)

"Despite increased state attention to results," the governors' report notes, "rarely does especially good or poor performance at the district or school-building level affect specific state actions."

The ccsso survey found that only nine states provide any type of financial reward or recognition to schools or districts with high achievement levels.

In 20 states, the survey found, substandard performance by a district or school triggers state action, ranging from technical assistance and additional funding to state intervention or a complete takeover.

Gov. John Ashcroft of Missouri, who chaired the nga's subcommittee on education last year, also addressed the accountability issue while leading the meeting's major session on education.

Educators and policymakers "must show that these reforms are helping children learn more," he said. "If they don't work, we should be discarding them."

Other Matters

Other education-related issues addressed by the governors included:

Pilot reform project. The U.S. Education Department released a status report on its collaborative effort with the nga to test some of the recommendations from Time for Results in 16 school districts.

The report details the progress and pitfalls experienced by the districts as they have begun to implement their reform plans, and includes 15 recommendations from the district superintendents who are leading the efforts.

Harry Galinsky, superintendent of schools in Paramus, N.J., provided the governors with an overview of his district's efforts, saying that in today's competitive economic climate, "maintaining the status quo is tantamount to falling behind."

Copies of Experiences in School Improvement, The Story of 16 American Districts, can be obtained for $4.50 by writing the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. The stock number is 065-000-00343-1.

Rural-development initiative. A 10-member governors' task force released a report, New Alliances for Rural America, that calls on all levels of government to work toward improving the quality of life in rural areas.

The report argues that "states should encourage rural school districts to develop distinctive ways of restructuring, including closer integration of schools with other community activities, active participation by schools in community development, sharing services among districts, and 'distance learning."'

Economic development. The governors also released a follow-up report on efforts by states to implement the recommendations of the governors' 1987 reports, Bringing Down the Barriers and Jobs, Growth, and Competitiveness.

The new report, Making America Work, outlines recent state initiatives designed to address some of the major problems that prevent youths from becoming productive adults.

Among the programs discussed in the document are efforts targeting teenage pregnancy, illiteracy, welfare dependency, alcohol and drug abuse, and dropping out of school.

Community service. At one session, several governors discussed efforts in their states to encourage youths to participate in voluntary community-service programs, and urged other governors to enact such programs.

Community service provides a "learning experience which cannot be matched," Gov. Richard Celeste of Ohio, a former director of the Peace Corps, told his colleagues.

Reports released during the nga meeting can be obtained by writing the National Governors' Association, Hall of the States, 444 N. Capitol St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001-1572.

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